It was only later that the disciples really understood what Jesus had been telling them all along.
as told by Deborah
There were Greeks among those who came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They said to Philip (who was from Bethsaida, where many spoke Greek), "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
Philip went and told Andrew; and the two of them went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
"Now my soul is troubled. Should I say: 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, this is why I have come. Father, glorify Your name."
Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
Those who were there heard it; some said it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now the world is judged; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
Spoiler alert: Soon we shall see that Jesus knew what was going to happen next, as all of the Gospels attest. He will be betrayed, abandoned by his followers, reviled and maligned by his enemies, condemned to death by Pontius Pilate; he will be viciously beaten, humiliated, mocked, and “lifted up from the earth,” as he says here — on a cross: crucified. He will die and be buried.
It will all come to pass, just as he said. It will be terrible. Brutal. Devastating.
And then, on the third day…..
Something remarkable happened.
“What is truth?” ~ Pontius Pilate
According to the Roman ruling class and the religious authorities, what happened was that Jesus’ followers removed his body from the tomb and hid it away. However, there’s a problem with this theory. That faithful Jews would have intentionally come into contact with a corpse — entered a burial crypt, removed the linen coverings from the body and then carried it away in the middle of the night (all the while avoiding detection by the posted guards) — seems extremely unlikely.
Further, if they were able to overcome not only the horror, but the natural human repugnance to the process of decay (as Martha warned at Lazarus’ tomb: “He will stink!”), as well as to expose themselves and those around them to the attendant ritual impurity, what would they have done with the body? Surely the last thing they would do was deny their lord and beloved teacher a decent burial.
The explanation supplied by the government and the religious authorities requires that we overlook an awful lot of anomalies and accept some extremely unlikely assumptions. But if the official narrative is false, what can we say about the one given in the Gospels?
There is not a “single” version of the First Easter, per se. The events and the experiences described by the various disciples differ to greater and lesser degrees, but a unified narrative does emerge. Despite having been crucified, died, and buried within a rock-cut tomb for three days, “he showed himself alive to them by many convincing proofs (Acts 1:3).” In short: Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
If the official narrative required a “suspension of disbelief” — it was nothing compared to this.
Modern conjectures as to the source of this astonishing, utterly-unheard-of-before-or-since event includes the use of narcotics to mimic death, thus duping the executioners into removing Jesus from the cross “early” — after which he presumably leaped to his feet and ran from the tomb following hours of agonizing pain from exposure, exhaustion, and the effects of hanging from iron stakes which had been pounded through his ankles and wrists. Even had he survived, the Man would have been permanently, severely disabled — not capable of hiking fifteen miles along the road to Emmaus, or strolling through a garden, or ambling across a sandy beach, or climbing a set of stairs to an upper room.
When the “logical” explanations all fall away, attention is instead turned to the disciples, alleging they are liars, or sneak thieves, or befuddled; victims of mass hallucinations or their own wishful thinking. But we must ask: Why? What was in it for this group of fisherfolk and sheepherders, Greeks and grifters, this motley assortment of the poor and the powerless to proclaim the impossible? Why would they insist, in the face of abuse, derision, and persecution that “He is risen from the dead!”? They had nothing to gain, and everything — even their lives — to lose.
And why would his disciples invent such a tale? It clearly wasn’t a pre-Easter expectation: the Gospels repeatedly state that it was only later that they “got the message.” Only after the risen Lord appeared to them did his followers come to understand what he had been saying all along.
There can be no other explanation for it: something happened.
Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Things are not always as they seem. A seed is buried in the ground, where it rests, apparently still and lifeless; a mere shell. Then, after a time, almost miraculously, a green shoot arises from the earth — bearing new life, bringing forth a multitude of seeds.
It is not a simple restoration of what was, but something else — something other; greater, more wonderful; awesome.
The worldly powers — the rich and well-connected, who had sold their souls to the Empire — believed that they had killed the Lord, the Light Bearer; they believed that Jesus was dead, buried, that his Message was now “as silent as the tomb.” They were convinced that their power was absolute, that their word was the law, that their decisions were final. They were wrong.
Instead of dying off — the Gospel spread. Jesus’ Message was carried across the land, beyond the sea, and throughout the world; springing up everywhere.
Something happened. Something wonderful.
God is funny that way; showing up when we least expect it. Seeping through the cracks of our sorrows, shining forth within our darkest hour, whispering in the surrounding stillness after the storms have passed. The chirp of a robin, the sparkling dew after a rain; the scent of lilac, the caress of a summer breeze, the warmth of the sun…. tiny divine love notes pushed under the threshold of our awareness. Calling to us, reaching out with love and compassion. Things are not merely what they seem.
Long ago and far away, at a time when all seemed lost, when darkness covered the lives of those who had seen the Light, when sorrow overwhelmed their hope, something happened. God’s great power and passionate love blazed forth in a definitive refutation of the “power” of death — and those who sought to wield it to terrify and control. It was not a simple restoration of what was, but something else: the Risen Christ was something other; greater, more wonderful, than the Lord Jesus had been. All those who witnessed Him were also transformed; all of their fears and sorrows disappeared.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
~ John 20:29
But we have seen! We have seen countless signs of God’s great mercy and unfailing love — we just haven’t always noticed them. Our fears, our sorrows, our worries — the thousand and one things that clutter our lives — cloud our vision. The world conspires to distract and confuse us, laying claim to ultimate power, stirring up hatred and anxiety, enveloping us in chaos; seeking to control all that we are, all that we dream of, work for, imagine, and believe.
Something happened. Something that transformed the lives of all who witnessed it. And it is still happening: something other; something greater, more wonderful than mere words can describe. This something fills those who believe with courage, with hope, with gentle joy and perfect peace.
God’s word is the last word, and that Word is Christ Jesus: risen from the dead, alive, present; that astonishing, life-changing, world-changing Something.
May that glorious Something abide in you, inspire you, and give you peace,
Open your eyes and your heart to God’s love notes; signs of that Something are sown all around us and planted in our innermost being.
Breathe in the glory that is Christ Jesus, alive, living, present.